Thursday, May 20, 2010

A close call for this Pole

Let me tell you, loyal readers, I'm very fortunate to be a free man tonight. Hand to God, I got pulled over by a policeman in Phoenix tonight, and it was a close call. I'm shaking as I write these words.

Seems they installed a light-rail system to benefit the seven people in Phoenix who do not own automobiles. As I was leaving Chase Field following tonight's Giants-Diamondbacks game, I turned right against a red light at an intersection with light rail, having missed the sign that said it was a no-no.

(As an aside, can I get through one damn road trip without being hassled by The Man? Remember the ticket I got in Miami for cutting through a Shell station to pass a narcoleptic pig driving 15 in a 30 zone? Did I piss off somebody at Interpol? Why am I being picked on?)

Anyway, the police lights flashed behind me as I turned onto 7th Street and I pulled over, my throat choked with fear. You see, I am a first-generation American. My parents were both born in Poland, and I have distinct Polish features. That never has been an issue in my native California, where aside from a few Polish jokes that I don't really get, I don't get hassled much for being Polish. I've been mainstreamed and accepted.

This is Arizona, though, and thanks to the new immigration law the police are required to determine the immigration status of anyone they believe to be here illegally. That leads to profiling, which means no Polish American in Arizona is safe.

Now, I'm a U.S. citizen through and through. I was born in California. I love baseball, hot dogs and apple-kielbasa pie. I bitch about my taxes, overeat and piss off everyone in Europe by demanding service immediately. You can't be more American than that. But it doesn't matter in Arizona now. This handsome young copper tonight could have asked for my immigration papers, and had I said I was American, he just might have called bullshit and taken me in.

I wouldn't last 5 minutes in the Maricopa County jail. The sheriff, Joe Arpaio, well, he's what Freud would have called a freakin' nut job. He puts prisoners in striped uniforms, like the one George Clooney wore in "Oh Brother Where Art Thou?" And just like the movie, which was supposed to take place in the 1930s, Arpaio runs chain gangs.

Can you imagine how long a pencil-pusher like me would last in the 100-degree heat pounding rocks into gravel on the side of an Arizona highway? There's be a lot of Polish Americans like me on the chain gang with whom the shoot the breeze. This immigration law is tough. A lot of us are going to get ensnared.

Maybe my skin was not fair enough to look Slavic, or maybe this cop was tired of running so many Poles into the station for not having their papers, but he let me go with a warning. I bid him Dziękuje, which means "thank you" in my parents' native tongue. He gave me the evil eye one more time and drove off.

I tell you, under the current circumstances it's tough to look Polish in Arizona. It would be hard for me to live here full time.


  1. There's always that tense scene in the WWII movie where the officer come into the compartment and says firmly, "Show me your papers." Even if you weren't following along with any particular care up to that point, reserving your full attention for its more active scenes of war, you wouldn't find it difficult the recognize the officer as one of the badguys. The government that can make you show your papers is too big, too ominously big, to play the good guy in or out of a WWII movie. Inevitably that government will lean on you, come through the compartment you're in, asking you for papers you might not have with you.

    So the cop just randomly orders you to show your papers, and you say, "Hey, I don't have to do that! The Supreme Court of the U.S.A. already ruled on that one! Show me your papers? What kind of WWII movie you think we're running here, sonny?"

    And the cop says, "Your Honor, her clothes were all from China and she had an accent that wasn't from around here and I put two and two together and became reasonably suspicious so I asked for her ID. She started insisting about 'Yawl' this and 'Yawl' that in some odd tongue or other so I had to tase her to control the situation."

  2. dbacks presidential lineup could be improved by adding jack wilson at ss, dave pearce at 3b, and farmhands carter and taylor (As) and ford (SF). Maybe ron wahingtion could manage and bill hayes be catcher

  3. Cutting through gas station is illegal in California too. As is turning right on red where sign says it's not allowed. Not feeling too sorry for you.

  4. Carry your passport when in AZ and you need not worry. Plus we're looking for Hispanics who have ALREADY broken the law simply by being here. At least you weren't in North Korea or Iran, where we'd never see you again- had you actually violated immgration laws.